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Two Cheers for the Police - 4/5/16

As a political conservative you might expect that I would be a supporter of our police forces and their members.  And this is mostly correct.  They are after all the "thin blue line" that defends our society against the forces of lawlessness and anarchy.  I am of course completely on their side with regard to the "Black Lives Matter" controversy.  I have at home the complete series on DVD of both "Dragnet" and "Adam-12," two of my favorite TV shows.

But this does not mean that I think that the police or perfect or that their members never act wrongly or capriciously.  This is of course because, as Los Angeles Police Chief Ed Davis once said, "We have to recruit from the human race."

One such incident happened to me just the other day.  I was riding my bicycle to work and came to a four-way stop at the intersection.  I stopped and checked and saw that no one else was waiting to cross the street and proceeded forward.   As I did, two women suddenly ran out onto the street in front of me.

Well, I didn't want to stop dead in the middle of the intersection so I continued forward and maneuvered around the two women and reached the other side.  As I passed one of the women, she acknowledged their faux pas by saying "Sorry about that!"

However, as I began to continue on my way, a police car pulled up next to me and beeped his siren, so I stopped.  He proceeded to tell me that I was completely at fault in the situation and that all pedestrians in the crosswalk had the right of way over anyone else.  (I suspect his position had something to do with the fact that the two women were uniformed police officers.)

Here I violated one of my own rules.  I have had in my lifetime had very few interactions with the police, being a painfully law-abiding citizen.  My rule in those situations has been to be painfully polite-always to address the officer as "sir" or "ma'am" and not to argue, because you can't win an argument with a cop, as they have all the power in any encounter. 

So it was a waste of my time to say to the officer that even pedestrians have to wait their turn to cross the street.  He just repeated that pedestrians in the crosswalk always have the right of way.  (Really, officer, so when I am a pedestrian I can cross any street in the crosswalk even if the light is against me and cars are coming down the street at me at full speed, because they "have" to stop for me because I have the right of way?  I don't think so.)

I changed my tack, meekly promised to do better in the future and he let me go.

But it reminded me of the several occasions recently when I had seen police cars, in non-emergency situations, violate traffic laws, e.g. rolling through stop signs and failing to use their signals when they make turns.  It is plain that a lot of police officers have the attitude that since they enforce the laws, they have no duty to obey them.  I have thought of getting the number of these cars and reporting them, but have not bothered because of one occasion when I did so.

There are a number of bike and pedestrian paths in my community and several times I have observed police cars driving on a certain stretch of these paths, obviously to make a shortcut between two different highways that pass close by the path.  These were non-emergency situations, none of the cars in these incidents were using their sirens or emergency lights, they were driving on the paths purely for convenience.  Since a police car takes up the entire width of these paths, they force pedestrians and cyclists off the path and it is only a matter of time before some kind of accident occurs.

Twice I wrote letters to the police reporting these incidents and both times an officer from public relations called me back.  He admitted that the officers in these incidents were driving on the pedestrian path purely as a shortcut but that I needn't worry because they do so perfectly safely.  I asked him in that case if I could use the shortcut when I was driving my car if it was so safe, but of course he wouldn't go along with that!

Most police officers are great, do a badly needed job and do it very well.  But it must be admitted that some of them feel that they have a special privilege to obey the laws they are supposed to enforce only when it suits their convenience.  And this does nothing to enhance the respect felt toward them by the community they are paid to serve.

Questions, comments,  compliments, objections about the above? The Oldest & Wisest wants to know!  Email him at

Questions, comments,  compliments, objections about the above? The Oldest & Wisest wants to know!  Email him at